Scarponi dreams of the Giro
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Monday, February 01, 2010

Scarponi dreams of the Giro

by Ben Atkins at 12:13 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Giro d'Italia
 

With the departure of two-time Giro d’Italia winner Gilberto Simoni from the Androni Giocattoli – Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni team, Michele Scarponi finds himself as the undisputed leader of the team for the first time. The 30-year-old told la Gazzetta dello Sport how this made him feel and set out his main targets for the year.

"A big responsibility, sure,” he said. “But it’s fine with me, I am not the type to back down in the face of responsibility. In fact, I have a great chance ahead of me, leading a group of exceptional teammates with whom there is great synthesis and harmony. And this time I will not let it slip.”

In 2009 Scarponi won a stage and the overall in Tirreno-Adriatico, followed by two stages in the Giro d’Italia. These results – riding for a Professional Continental team meant that he was selected to represent Italy in the World Championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

This year he hopes to build further on these results.

"The results of last year gave me more security and they told me that I can look even higher,” he said. “I’m convinced I can have my say in the overall of a three week race and am thinking of course of the Giro d'Italia – invitation permitting, of course, because we are not sure of participation.

“But I think a team like ours deserves a ride, for what it has done in many past editions, including the last one, in which we won three stages, we got the third in the team classification and we made the race on so many days.”

Assuming his team is granted an invitation by the Giro d’Italia organisers RCS Sport, Scarponi will be aiming high.

"The podium would be a remarkable achievement but not impossible,” he said. “I'm working hard in terms of this ambition; my preparation was slightly different compared to 2009, when I was much stronger in the beginning of the season to be immediately competitive. This year, for example, at the Tirreno-Adriatico I don’t know if I’ll have the same legs as a year ago.”

His preparation for the new season has not gone without a hitch however. “I also had a small accident that has slowed down my preparation," said the 30-year-old.

"Nothing serious, mind you,” he continued. “Or at least I hope not. It was an inflammation in my left knee, which happened because I slightly changed my bike set-up. I had to stay off the bike for ten days and undergo some therapy: the pain now seems to have passed.

“Tomorrow I return to my training, we’ll see how the knee responds. Certainly the work I put in to my legs beforehand has not gone up in smoke. "

This slight setback means that Scarponi will make changes to the early part of his season’s schedule. "I’ll no longer start my season at Donoratico [GP Costa degli Etrusci, February 6th] as I had expected,” he said, “but if all goes well, I’ll begin at [Trofeo] Laigueglia [on February 20th].

“Then my build up to the Giro should remain the same: Giro di Sardegna, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-San Remo, Settimana Lombarda and the Northern Classics."

In order to mount a serious challenge for the Giro podium, Scarponi has had to make some improvements to certain areas of his riding. "In time trials, definitely,” he confirmed. “If you want to finish highly in a major stage race, the time trial is fundamental. This year, there will be a time trial at the end of the Giro.

As well as time trials though the Giro is, as usual, extremely mountainous. 'It is true; the last week is incredible,” he agreed. “This is why my favourite for the “corsa rosa” is [Carlos] Sastre, as he’s a climber who can go the distance."

Scarponi, like Ivan Basso, was suspended for almost two seasons because of his involvement in the Spanish doping scandal uncovered in Operacion Puerto. On his return to racing in 2009, the adrenalin built up over his suspension was a factor in his results. "Certainly the rage played a key role last year,” he confirmed, “but now I’m more relaxed. I'm just calmer. That's another thing."

Besides Simoni, a number of other riders left the team at the end of the year (as well as Davide Rebellin, who retrospectively tested positive for CERA at the Beijing Olympics), but Scarponi knows who his key riders will be.

"Without detracting from the role, value and importance of everyone else, I’d say Massimo Giunti [who has joined from Continental Miche – Silver Cross – Selle Italia]: he’s a wise man, experienced, strong uphill, with whom I have a great feeling. And then, among the young riders: Fabio Taborre.”

As sole leader of the team, Scarponi hopes to be able to get his preparation for this year’s Giro perfect.

"For one reason or another, I’ve never reached my top form at the right time. Here, this year I'd finally like to be able to get the timing right.”

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